Twenty-five studio albums? Now that is what you call a body of work! ALICE COOPER is one of a select group of artists that is able to change styles, at least partially, from one album to the next and get away with it. Just consider the diversity across albums like "Love it to Death", "From the Inside", "Zipper Catches Skin", "Constrictor", "Trash", and "Brutal Planet". Sure, shots miss the target from time to time, but you can't fault a guy for trying new things. "Along Came a Spider", is in many ways a happy medium; there is some old and some new, but primarily the songwriting and sound will be recognizable to most as a more – at the risk of using such a concrete term in this case — traditional ALICE COOPER effort.
"Along Came a Spider" is a concept album that weaves (pun intended) the tale of an, in COOPER's words, "arachnophobic psychopath" named Spider. In true ALICE form, this Spider character is no meat-and-potatoes serial killer, which I'm sure comes as a shock to no one. Rather than a bloated conceptual treatment crammed with interludes and songs that suffer from being tailored to the story instead of the listener, "Along Came a Spider" moves at a brisk pace and features several rockin' and tuneful numbers that balance modern effects (e.g. the scratchy/distorted stuff you might hear on a MARILYN MANSON album, to some degree anyway) with vintage sounds (e.g. shades of those old Glen Buxton/Michael Bruce licks).
The album begins with some brief narration during the first part of "Prologue/I Know Where You Live" and ends with Spider talking about the authorities finding his diary in which a description of his eight victims is found (from the second part of "I Am the Spider/Epilogue"). He is then heard uttering with pride his mantra of "You trap, you kill, you eat". In between you get a lot of vintage ALICE COOPER rock, a couple of ballads, and the expected oddball twists. "Prologue/I Know Where you Live" is an example of the album's fuzz tone rockers, complete with cowbell, as is the quirky-cool "Wake the Dead" with buzzing riffs and a bit of harmonica from Ozzy Osbourne. Parts like the "Run for your life" refrain from "Wake the Dead" are a bit on the goofy side, but still work largely because this is an ALICE COOPER album. The same goes for the chorus of "I'm Hungry", which happens to include a riff that could damn near have come from an album like "Killer". "Vengeance is Mine" (featuring Slash on lead guitar) is one of the stronger numbers and comes with a doomy DANZIG-style riff with a righteous wah-wah lead over top. The classic '70s COOPER sound is heard on ballads "Salvation" and "Killed by Love", although the latter is very BEATLES-esque.
"Along Came a Spider" is yet another example of an album made by an elder rock icon that manages to sound fresh and relevant in 2008. If it is Rock Theater that you seek, then ALICE COOPER is your ticket to ride.